The urgency to defeat COVID-19 and save lives resulted in significant systemic changes within the scientific community. Vaccines reached patients in less than a year, leading many to wonder if the same speed and accuracy could apply to other diseases.
COVID-19 treatments could inform cancer research if experts learn from the past and work together to keep the necessary changes in place. Cancer patients need better forms of treatment as well as cures.
Creative solutions to disruptive health care roadblocks would provide medical relief and overhaul a system that's seen too many patients pass away from diseases left un-researched.
1. Clinical trials can change the speeds of drug synthesis.
Clinical trials are the first step toward finding a cure. The University of California at San Diego launched Remdesivir trials in March to quickly find evidence for or against the COVID-19 treatment. Immediately broadcasting trial availability and studying the drug's effects led to the October FDA approval that made it accessible nationwide.
Cancer treatment trials would benefit from the same quick establishment and publicity. If patients heard about the opportunity through their local news station, the trials wouldn't remain hidden within the medical community and held back by low enrollment numbers. State health department websites could even feature ongoing and upcoming trials to centralize relevant information.
2. Proteins may become important.
The mRNA vaccines defeat COVID-19 by including blueprints for the spike protein that allows the virus to invade healthy cells. After the body learns how to build the protein, it knows how to disassemble it so the virus never affects the vaccinated individual.
It's a new approach to vaccines because it doesn't include a live portion of the virus. It focuses on the outer proteins instead, which could inform cancer research. New technology inspired by the protein-focused COVID-19 response could find Claudin family proteins faster.
The cell adhesion molecules are frequently overexpressed in neoplasias via arrangements, and they appear in other cancers, too. This new technique could be the fresh perspective necessary for revamping the world of cancer research and identification.
3. Competition will link experts.
Companies always look for new ways to get their name in the history books or make the most money off of a discovery. COVID-19 linked experts for the sake of helping people, given that most Americans won't have to pay any additional costs to receive their vaccine dose.
This kind of partnership would speed cancer research and better inform the public. Officials create regular reports detailing COVID-19 vaccine progress and viral spread and publish them on global trackers, like those produced by Johns Hopkins University. When the trackers first went live, they added accountability and built trust with the general public.
Cancer research companies could do the same for their trial participants and future patients. They could partner and publicize their work. It would speed up communication and possibly lead to streamlining the Institutional Review Board processes so patients could receive medications faster.
4. Guidelines could face revisions.
Any clinical trial changes or additions would require protocol revisions. According to what research teams need, each trial outlines participant eligibility with specific factors that make people more or less likely to respond to their treatment. Those factors include things such as: age, type of cancer and previous treatment.
The participant pool would broaden if these factors became less specific or essential. Some FDA eligibility criteria may also need changed, depending on which cancer trials open up more and who runs them.
5. New possibilities lie ahead.
Before COVID-19, no one assumed that treatment trials for any disease would change. Time was always necessary for the existing scientific methods, but now, COVID-19 treatments could inform cancer research.
The medical community will have to evaluate steps like reforming guidelines and prioritizing proteins before more patients can access potential help.